How to have a more sustainable Christmas tree this year

Posted by Anita Froneman on 8 December 2021

By Ryan Enslin 

Picture the scene. Mere days before Christmas, the happy couple head out to acquire a Christmas Tree, braving the relentless snow so common in Upstate New York. They come across a market and buy the last remaining specimen before heading home to eggnog and family sing-alongs. Life is perfect. Got to love the movies… But this is South Africa. Put on your best pair of rugby shorts and cleanest vellies, Ryan Enslin wants to take you Christmas tree shopping.

What piped-Christmas carols and Mariah Carey ditties playing in shopping centres foretold back in October, has now finally arrived. Yip, the festive season is upon us, having welcomed-in December just the other day. Family time, gift-giving, festive meals, and afternoon naps to aid digestion, will shortly be the order of the day.

And don’t forget the much-beloved Christmas tree.

Every family has their own tradition as to when the tree is sourced/hauled out of the garage, who gets involved in its decoration and its exact placement in the home. In this COVID-19 time of increased awareness, let’s also take a moment to step back and consider the impact this hallmark of the season has on the environment.

The Big Question

The question facing many families now is – fake or real tree?

Naturally (excuse the pun) fake trees are not environmentally responsible. But, if you already have a faker gathering dust in the garage, as it has been for the past 10-plus years, hang on to it rather than dispose of it. Currently, fake trees cannot be recycled due to toxic materials used in their construction. Advancements are being made in creating environmentally safe fake trees, we are just not quite there yet, according to Green Leaf Alternative Solutions.

If you’re looking for a new tree, for whatever reason, purchasing a faker is not ideal. Many people prefer a real tree during this festive time of the year as they most definitely do up the ambience, but which one to buy and should it be a cut-down tree (no roots) or a potted tree (with roots)?

The Real McCoy with Roots

Potted trees take longer to grow as their roots are constrained by the container you use. On average you’re looking at an additional three years. What’s more, potted trees generally won’t grow into the biggest and bushiest versions of themselves. However, the upside of a potted tree is, with the right care, you can bring it indoors each December for many years to come.

If this is your choice, opt for an indigenous tree to continue your environmentally friendly awakening. Life Is A Garden suggests either a Yellowwood, an Outeniqua Yellowwood, a Cape Gardenia or a Cheesewood tree would lend themselves to a festive application.

The Real McCoy without Roots

If you opt for a cut-down tree you need to think of your tree as a bunch of roses. Just bigger in size. The tree is going to die and it can’t be replanted. However, your tree, specifically grown for this purpose, will return to nature in the most natural way. With proper care, your tree will serve you well for around three weeks.

Joburger Kathy Nel from Real Christmas Trees has been in the business of selling Japanese Cedar Trees for the past 18 years. The trees are responsibly sourced from a plantation in KwaZulu Natal which ensures new trees are replanted once the current year’s harvest has been claimed. The Japanese Cedar Tree presents a great shape for festive expectations and brings a wonderful fresh tree fragrance into the home.

Due to the limited lifespan of the cut-down trees, Kathy sells them for only one weekend of the year – two weeks before Christmas. If you’re in Joburg and looking to buy a Christmas Tree, that’s this coming weekend 11 and 12 December 2021. Find Kathy and her Christmas Tree Market at the Dunkeld Bowling Club, 15 Hume Road, Dunkeld West. Don’t delay, they work on a first-come-first-served basis and no orders are taken.

Credit: Supplied

Credit: Supplied

If you’re in KwaZulu Natal the Hilton Christmas Tree Farm can help you out and if you’re a Capetonian Capelands Landscape can assist you in your search.

Still Not Convinced?

If you still haven’t made up your mind between real or fake, rooted or rootless, or want to steer clear of trees entirely, consider these alternative Christmas tree ideas.

  • Use your empty coffee pods in a giant pyramid-shaped stack to bring some festive cheer, not to mention heavenly coffee aroma, into your home.
  • Collect varying shades of green boxes or books during the year and stack them appropriately to create a tree.
  • Keep your empty wine bottles from throughout the year and with the use of a stand with small pipes that fit inside each bottle, you’ll have a tree in no time, plus tons of stories to share as you reminisce about each bottle on your tree.
  • Grab your stepladder from the garage and drape fairy lights around the structure for a rustic approach to Christmas.
  • Many local markets sell the ever-popular wire and driftwood versions of Christmas trees, or make one yourself after your next walk on the beach/past a telephone exchange.

At the end of the day, the season is all about family and coming together. The Christmas Tree is merely a facilitator. But the right tree will greatly add to the sense of awe and wonder ahead this December.

Picture: Unsplash

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